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    Contents Magazine

    "Peter the Great"

    Nathan Bexton introduces us to the Fascinating Mr. Facinelli. Photographed by Randall Mesdon.

     
    We first noticed him in a movie no one else noticed. Supernova was one of those films that more people walked out on than had heard of. But if you were lucky, if you somehow survived the first thirty-five minutes, you can count yourself among the few who witnessed the birth of a real supernova...actor Peter Facinelli.

    Bassett and James Spader, were only too aware of what a stinker they were trapped in and merely sleepwalked through their parts. But who needs to be kind? The truth is that Facinelli scorched his fellow actors right off the screen in a white hot blaze of charisma, beauty, and talent.

    Thankfully, word of the next big thing - as in Cruise or Pitt - can still out-distance a flop. Now, just six months after Supernova's quiet implosion, we find twenty-seven year old Facinelli giving Kevin Spacey a run for his Oscar in the critically acclaimed The Big Kahuna. And this time everyone is staying seated.

    At Contents, we strongly believe that it takes one to know one; so we've enlisted the help of one [of] our favorite young actors, Nathan Bexton, star of this Summer's The In Crowd and Facinelli's co-star in Ropewalk, to interrogate Hollywood's next big kahuna. Ladies and gentlemen; introducing Peter Facinelli.

    We are four stories up on Nathan's fire escape overlooking the Hollywood sign. Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Tinsel Town.

    So, Peter, let's get the humdrum questions out of the way. There are so many myths about Hollywood. Which ones have turned out to be true?

    Oh, God. Myths that are true about Hollywood? I don't know. I'd have to watch E! True Hollywood Scandals to get the truth. Actors and waiting on tables. Have I ever waited on tables? No.

    Have you ever waited in general?

    Film acting is waiting, as you know.

    Yes, it is. Here are some more myths: most actors are on drugs, everyone has an entourage, lots of cash and a black book the size of Pamela Anderson's boobs.

    We are sitting on the fourth floor of a fire escape. What do you think? I try to stay away from all the Hollywood stuff. The public probably thinks young actors in Hollywood drive fast cars and lead a high speed life, but I don't. I'm pretty grounded. I try to surround myself with people who don't do drugs. I don't need to escape.

    But where do you turn to for some kind of release?

    I talk to my girlfriend, my friends. You have to get it out some way.

    Is there some sort of activity you do on a regular basis?

    I've been taking Kung Fu up in North Hollywood. It's pretty cool. It's a way of centering yourself, meditating. And it's also an art form. When you apply that kind of discipline in your life, it allows you to become a more focused person. Martial arts is a drug of choice. [laughs]

    When would you have quit if you hadn't made it?

    I've been very fortunate. I started working about five years ago on a regular basis. But I couldn't think about quitting. It's who you are. It's a calling, a passion. So to give up on that is to give up on life. I've been lucky that I haven't had to take jobs outside of acting. So far acting has been my main provider.

    So do you love watching movies as much as you love being a part of it?

    I rent a movie about every night. The real reason I have to act is to get money because I return my tapes weeks later. I'll probably be sent to the creditors because of Return of the Jedi. [laughs]

    Explain the different styles of acting.

    I studied acting at NYU. It's all kind of bizarre. I mean there's no right way to do it. I studied a couple of different techniques. You have Meisner on one side of the scale, which is very moment acting - I studied Meisner, which the Atlantic Theater Company taught at NYU - and then there's Strasberg, which is very method where you search within your life to find the character. It's the difference between internal and external. At PAW, Practical Aesthetic Workshop, you have this character that you create. You don't believe you're the character. The character is completely external - the way you walk, the way you talk. The internal approach

    I'm sorry. Check this out, dude. There's a chick on the back of that jeep with her top off! She looks like a hooker.

    I'm so glad youíre interested. [laughs] Maybe I should leave.

    No, no. That's how crazy this town is. So random. Anyway, everybody always talks about the method.

    It's an approach where you become that character. Then there's the external where it's more like putting on a coat. My technique kind of meshes both together.

    So basically you use whatever tool necessary in order to attain the moment.

    The actor's job is to bring truth to every moment within that character. I think there's no right or wrong way. You can have truthful moments that might not be appropriate for what's going on. It's the director's job to manipulate you to change what your objective is, to get a different response out of you.

    Have you ever worked with a director who had no idea about acting and it hindered what you were trying to do?

    I've worked with a few directors who didn't understand acting.

    Did it impede the process?

    No, because those directors let you do your thing. They might not understand acting at all but they know how to tell a story. They don't care what the hell you're thinking about when you're doing that scene. The just care about the outcome.

    What about John Swanbeck, the director of The Big Kahuna?

    He was a real actor's director. He came from a theater background and really understood actors, understood what he wanted from an actor without giving him end-orientated direction. He would give you moments to play without you knowing what the outcome was. This way you're more focused on the moment and you would surprise yourself. It brought more truth to the scene.

    Is it true that Kevin Spacey recommended you for that part?

    Yeah. Kevin knew my work and he put me on a short list of actors for John to look at. John saw a reel of my work which is very diverse. I try not to do the same thing twice which drives me as an actor; to step into as many people's shoes as I can in one lifetime.

    What is Kevin Spacey like?

    Kevin is just a great person, a great actor. Very humble. He's directed before and he produced The Big Kahuna, so he could have easily come in and said this is how we're going to do it, but he didn't. He came in and made everybody feel like an equal. I was just as equal as Danny DeVito and Kevin, and it was so beautiful and inspiring.

    Tell me a little about your upbringing - your parents, your sisters, where you were raised.

    I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Queens. I didn't act at all in high school even though it was something I wanted to do. I am first generation American so telling my parents I wanted to be an actor was like telling them I wanted to go to Mars. I didn't pursue acting until college when I knew I wouldn't be happy doing anything else. So I started studying there, started working, and here I am talking to Nathan Bexton.

    How was the homelife?

    I grew up in a house full of women - my mom, three sisters, my grandmother, and my dad worked six days a week. It was interesting growing up with women. I developed a strong respect and a sensitivity for women.

    Were you pampered?

    Not pampered. I had a lot more freedom. By the time my parents got to me they were a lot more liberal.

    Do you think you learned the facts of life sooner because there were lots of tampons, etc., around?

    No. Sex wasn't discussed in my house.

    A very Italian household?

    I wasn't allowed to watch The Love Boat because my grandmother would stand downstairs and yell at me because women were walking around in bikinis. She would get magazines in the mail and cut out all the sexy pictures and throw them out. I didn't kiss a girl until I was about sixteen. I threw rocks at them until I was about fifteen because I didn't want my sisters to tease me.

    I bet that was sexually confusing. What was it like the first time you saw boobs? Was it like dirty?

    I don't remember, man. [laughs]

    Did you ever go see a movie you weren't supposed to?

    No. I was a good boy. Did my homework, was on the bowling team. [laughs]

    I heard a story about a certain someone aspiring to be a pool shark. You weren't all Mr. Goody-Two Shoes.

    I used to cut school to shoot pool because I thought it was cool. I would sit in the pool hall thinking I was all good but I really wasn't. Actually I just hated high school. It was two hours away and I had to take four buses to get there. There were a lot [of] cliques and I didn't want to be labeled. It's kinda like Hollywood. But I miss it, the simplicity of it. You though life was stressful because you got a pimple on your face and you didn't want to go to school.

    Tell me a little about your daughter.

    She's an angel. She's the apple of my eye. It's so great. If I have a bad day, I can look in her eyes and she makes it all go away.

    If you were born fifty years ago, do you think you would have still become an actor?

    Yes. I would love to have been an actor in the 50s. It was such a cool time to be an actor. I like the people who broke the rules in the 50s like Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, and Montgomery Clift. They brought a whole new style, a freshness to the scene.

    Do you think you're going to attain your own sort of movement in this day and age?

    I'd like to think that I could be a part of some kind of movement and change the outlook of acting. Right now Hollywood has character actors and personality actors. Personality actors portray themselves in different situations and you go see the movies because you like them. But I want to bring the two together.

    Were you disappointed with Supernova?

    Of course, I was disappointed with the perception of the movie and how it did.

    What was the perception?

    That there were a lot of problems with the movie and so that's what they wrote about. The changing of directors, so there was a backlash about that. When we started the project, it was an interesting movie. The story line was that it was a love triangle between me, Angela Bassett, and James Spader. On the ship there was this alien object, which symbolized an addiction, that my character had to be around all the time and he let it destroy his life. It didn't exactly come out to be that.

    But the movie was still enjoyable.

    Yeah, but I think there were pieces missing that didn't allow the audience to get what Walter Hill [director] had really set out to do. But that's not Walter's fault. There were a lot of changes in the film and Walter wanted to do some re-shoots, but they wouldn't allow it. So other directors took it over and then put it together. Coppola then ended up doing the final cut. He did a great job putting it together but when you don't have all the pieces the story ends up not being clear.

    Do you think people were over-critical?

    I thought it was a good film but I didn't think it was a great film. It didn't have all the pieces that it would take to make it a great film.

    Do you like playing villains?

    My character in Supernova was villainous but I never think of my characters as being villains. I think that's the trap when you play an evil character, that you play him bad. I try to look at the good that they're striving for. When somebody robs a bank, people will say he's a bad guy but he has reasons to do it: Because he's broke, because he needs money to survive.

    A lot of people considered your character, Mike Dexter, in Can't Hardly Wait a real jerk.

    I didn't go in trying to play him as a jerk. I tried to find the reasons behind it. He wanted to be with other women, move on to college. He didn't think what he was doing wrong. He had this armor surrounding him because that's what people built him up to be. But when you saw him alone with the nerdy character, you got a glimpse of who he really was.

    I was impressed by that character specifically when I met you in real life. You are so caring and sensitive, and to see how you built up this character with such a Spartan armor was amazing. You did it with such diligence.

    Thank you. If you see Can't Hardly Wait, or Supernova, or Big Kahuna you see three completely different people. The biggest compliment I get sometimes is "I didn't even know that was you" which makes it harder because Hollywood wants to label you to sell you.

    Well, let's talk about the movie we did together.

    Yeah. Ropewalk. Coming soon to a theater near you.

    That was one of the best experiences I had making a movie. What was one of your fondest memories on that island off Nantucket?

    I don't know. We had such a blast. It was like going to camp. Just five or six actors, stuck on this little island during off season. It was fun doing this coming of age story as these characters go into their twenties and try to figure out life.

    Tell the readers about the laundry experience. [laughs]

    You and I went to get our laundry done and it was like a million miles away. We had to take our mopeds. What did that policeman call you for not having on your helmet?

    Nitwit. When we were there that Egyptian airliner crashed about fifteen miles off the coast.

    It was freaky because there's a plane crash in Ropewalk. I remember I had an appointment to meet some director back in New York and I just couldn't fly. To get off Nantucket you have to take a little eight seater Cessna. I took one over there and I was making deals with God.

    What kind of deals?

    Never to take a plane that size again and I haven't. I donít like being able to see the pilot. I took the ferry back.

    Let's sum up everything into one nice little nutshell. What legacy do you want to leave this world?

    I'd like to be respected for my craft. People ask me if I want to be famous...of course, to get the parts that you want to play instead of fighting for them you have to achieve fame. But I want to be remembered as an actor first, and a movie star second.

    Well, Peter as we sit here watching the sun set, I just want to let you know that I have become completely in-facinellied. [laughs]

    Thanks.



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